The Tampa Bay Rays have long been known for their creativity and being opportunistic. Most recently, they pioneered the "opener" pitching strategy that has since spread across the league. Tampa Bay's latest trick is turning their players into switch-hitters.
Sunday afternoon against the Blue Jays (GameTracker), noted left-handed hitter Ji-Man Choi turned around and batted right-handed against Toronto southpaw Anthony Kay. Choi struck out in his first at-bat as a righty but went deep next time up. It was a bomb too. Statcast has it at 429 feet and 110 mph off the bat. As a lefty, Choi did not hit a ball over 100.7 mph in 2019.
To be clear, Choi hitting right-handed did not happen randomly Sunday. He toyed around with it during batting practice in summer camp, and he did switch-hit a bit in the minors years ago. But not until Sunday did Choi hit right-handed in a big league game. The Rays were not expected to let him hit righty in regular season, so apparently something has changed.
"I don't really foresee that coming in any way," manager Kevin Cash told reporters, including MLB.com's Juan Toribio, earlier this month. "I just think where he's at in his career from a confidence standpoint, he's willing to mess around with it. We got an opportunity in this setting to work through some timing."
Choi, 29, hit .274/.377/.492 against right-handed pitchers last season but only .210/.309/.321 against lefties as a left-handed hitter. Truth be told, the Rays don't really need him to hit lefties. Jose Martinez and even Yandy Diaz are available as right-handed platoon partners. But hey, if Choi can make it work, why not? It sure worked Sunday.
"I'm the best hitter on the team, so it's not surprising ... Just kidding," Choi jokingly told reporters, including Toribio, when asked why he was batting righty in summer camp.